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Canada Set to Ban "Weed-n-Feed" Products

Re-evaluation Note REV2010-01, Uncoupling of Fertilizer-Pesticide Combination Products for Lawn and Turf Uses
2 February 2010
HC Pub: 100037
ISBN: 978-1-100-14700-0 (print version)
ISBN: 978-1-100-14701-7 (PDF version)
Catalogue number: H113-5/2010-1E (print version)
Catalogue number: H113-5/2010-1E-PDF (PDF version)

Table of Contents
  • 1.0 Purpose
  • 2.0 Scope
  • 3.0 Background
  • 4.0 Regulatory decision

1.0 Purpose


This document is to communicate to stakeholders the decision to uncouple fertilizer-pesticide combination products intended for lawn and turf uses.

2.0 Scope

This regulatory action is focussed on the lawn and turf uses of fertilizer-pesticide combination products on the following types of turf:
  • Lawn turf planted in or around residences, as well as public and commercial buildings including schools and cemeteries
  • Sports and recreational turf such as turf in parks, playgrounds, golf courses, zoos, botanical gardens and athletic playing fields

These types of turf are collectively known as fine turf, which may be maintained by homeowners or by professional applicators.

This regulatory action does not include agricultural uses of fertilizer-pesticide combination products (turf farms), or products that have a single active material with both fertilizer and pesticidal properties.

3.0 Background


Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) regulates pesticides under the Pest Control Products Act including those intended for lawn and turf uses. All pesticide products that are registered for use and sale in Canada have undergone rigorous health and environmental risk assessments including the pesticides present in fertilizer-pesticide combinations.

Pesticides are often combined with fertilizers and sold as fertilizer-pesticide combination products, which are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the Fertilizers Act. When pesticides are combined with fertilizer such that the two components can only be applied at the same time and to the same area, the delivery mechanism for the pesticide component is brought into question. The very nature of combination products removes the flexibility of applying the pesticide as a spot application due to the need to accommodate the fertilizer, which is designed for broadcast application to the entire lawn surface at specified times of the year.

Pesticides should only be used when and where there is a need. Broadcast applications of pesticides over the whole area are warranted only for severe pest infestations that are widespread. As pest infestations are typically patchy, spot applications of pesticides to those areas are most often sufficient to ensure adequate control in turf.

To be effective, fertilizers and pesticides must each be applied at the appropriate timings, which typically do not coincide. Fertilizers are most often applied in spring or early summer, and/or in late summer or fall. A spring-applied lawn fertilizer results in increased tillering and rapid growth as temperatures increase, resulting in turf of increased density. A fall-applied lawn fertilizer also results in increased tillering and may result in increased winter hardiness.

The majority of pesticides found in pesticide-fertilizer combination products are broadleaf herbicides belonging to the synthetic auxin group of chemicals. This group of chemicals only controls broadleaf weeds that have emerged and are actively growing in the lawn. These herbicides are not preventative in that they will only control weeds that have emerged and they do not prevent weeds from becoming established in the lawn. Further, this group of chemicals is not long lasting in that they do not persist in the soil to prevent future weed infestations.

Combination products have been purchased for their convenience and ease of use as a two-in-one product to address separate lawn maintenance issues (for example, nutrient deficiency and various pest infestations) with a single application. However, these products are unsuitable as a delivery mechanism because they support broadcast application of the pesticide when this might not be warranted.

Ultimately, fertilizer and pesticide applications should be based on need. Fertilizer should only be used if the turf will benefit from additional nutrients, and pesticide should only be used as a broadcast treatment if the pest densities are sufficiently high across the area to be treated. Targeted, well-timed liquid formulations of pesticides minimize pesticide use on the lawn and turf sites.

4.0 Regulatory decision

Based on consultation with the provinces, experts and registrants, the PMRA has concluded that fertilizer-pesticide combination products for lawn and turf uses do not support the goals of best practices for pest management in turf. The PMRA, in conjunction with Canadian Food Inspection Agency, is taking action to uncouple the fertilizer-pesticide combination products intended for lawn and turf uses. A date of last sale of 31 December 2012 for fertilizer-pesticide combination products for lawn and turf uses has been set in order to allow for replacement products to be made available where needed.

Should situations arise to warrant the use of a fertilizer-pesticide combination product for lawn and turf uses, the PMRA will assess combination products in terms of the timing of application and flexibility to apply as a spot treatment, as well as potential risks to human health and the environment.

The PMRA decision to uncouple fertilizer-pesticide combination products is not based on the health or environmental risk assessments but rather the nature of combination products. Combination products remove the flexibility of applying spot applications of the pesticide due to the need to accommodate the fertilizer, which is designed for broadcast application to the entire lawn surface at specified times of the year.

Turf fertilizers will continue to be available for broadcast application when needed. Pesticide-only products will also continue to be available for lawn care use to homeowners and commercial applicators for either spot treatments of localized weed patches or for use as broadcast applications to severely infested turf areas when warranted. Although more time consuming, pest control in lawn and turf can be achieved with careful pesticide spot applications that target only the pests that are present and separate broadcast applications of fertilizers.

Now if only the US were to follow suit...


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caitlinsdad7 years ago
I think this only means that the pesticide and fertilizer will not come in one handy bag.  You will now have to pay twice the price to buy them separately and them mix them when you get back home.  Weed and Feed works.

You buy a bag of fertilizer and now you have to get a gallon of pesticide concentrate because it doesn't come in the handy pints, a pressurized sprayer, respirator mask, goggles, chemical resistant gloves, rubber boots, disposable coveralls, etc just to kill that one weed coming out of your golf course-like 2x3 feet patch of grass in the corner of the patio.

Spurred on by the marketing team and chemical company lobby.


AngryRedhead (author)  caitlinsdad7 years ago
What?
To be effective, fertilizers and pesticides must each be applied at the appropriate timings, which typically do not coincide. Fertilizers are most often applied in spring or early summer, and/or in late summer or fall. A spring-applied lawn fertilizer results in increased tillering and rapid growth as temperatures increase, resulting in turf of increased density. A fall-applied lawn fertilizer also results in increased tillering and may result in increased winter hardiness.

The majority of pesticides found in pesticide-fertilizer combination products are broadleaf herbicides belonging to the synthetic auxin group of chemicals. This group of chemicals only controls broadleaf weeds that have emerged and are actively growing in the lawn. These herbicides are not preventative in that they will only control weeds that have emerged and they do not prevent weeds from becoming established in the lawn. Further, this group of chemicals is not long lasting in that they do not persist in the soil to prevent future weed infestations.
Plus excess herbicides and fertilizers get washed away and affect rivers, lakes, watersheds, etc.  And to make it even worse, these products salt the earth and will eventually turn soil into rubble.  For example, I can tell when a plant has been fertilized with synthetic products based on the salt build-up on the pots.  I've never had salt build up on my potted plants, and that's because I use compost.  If you look at soil studies on conventional vs. organic treatments (e.g., this), you'll see that organic soil stays healthy and retains its ability to support crops unlike chemically-treated soil.  So ya, this stuff doesn't work well, has detrimental effects on the environment, and will eventually destroy your land especially if you don't supplement with compost or other carbon-rich amendments.

If it does work, I'm going to place my bet on it being due to the fertilizer which encourages greater growth of grasses which shade out weeds and essentially push them out - it's hard for young plants to compete with strong, established ones even if it's dandelions or henbit, so really you might as well just buy the fertilizer rather than an all-in-one. 

Honestly, "the best fertilizer is a gardener's shadow," and trowels work magnificently on killing a weed.  It's hard to beat a $2 purchase that'll last indefinitely.
 
This is New York City.

I have a strip of grass, maybe 5x15 feet next to my driveway that I care about. I guess you would call it more an ornamental lawn since it barely makes an impact compared to others on the block who have concreted their front yards to make an extra parking spot.  Yeah, there are lazy dogwalkers that stealth fertilize my lawn that I have to contend with.  Also, the runoff from the salted icy sidewalk  during the winter does not make for good soil conditions for the grass.  And the idiot neighbor that takes a shortcut across my grass to pull into his spot because he blocked it in with his second car, thus compacting my soil in certain spots.   In the spring, birds seem to be attracted to my little patch of grass for some reason.  I don't know if it is their pollination or just the polluted air that carries weed seeds from all over the place.  All I want is a nice one-hole putting green.

So every year  early spring I apply the weed napalm - Weed and Feed.  I time it so that it does prevent the emergence of weeds and spot treat when I do see weeds.   I think I am also trying to see if Scott's lives up to its claims over the years.  I overseed with different mixes of grass seed - haven't found a good mix yet that works, do the summer - bug kill fertilizer mix, and fall-winter fertilizer.  I aerate the compacted soil and do pick out errant weeds by hand.  I do mulch the grass clippings back into the soil and that helps lessen the need for fertilizer.   I am all for going organic on the lawn but the conditions are just too tough to avoid the Weed and Feed.  For what I have, it works.  The best lawns are where they get the porta-john guy that sprays the stuff from the sewage plant. They have lush neon-green grass.







AngryRedhead (author)  caitlinsdad7 years ago
It sounds like you tend to your little patch of lawn rather diligently which kinda confuses me in a way.  I'm wondering why you don't use a pre-emergent and then a post-emergent herbicide specifically rather than using a combo mix because it doesn't seem like you have an issue with tending to the lawn.  I think a lot of the weed-n-feed products are geared specifically to established weeds which might be a source of the issue if I have that right.

And just out of curiosity since you didn't go into a lot of detail:  Do you seed a cool weather and a warm weather grass seed at the appropriate times?  Have you tried Buffalo Grass for a warm weather grass?  It looks awful in the winter but very pretty in the summer although I don't know how nice it would be for putting.  The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina has amazing lawns and very meticulous methods in maintaining them.  It's a somewhat similar climate to NYC, and they have green lawns (not neon green) all year round.  Of course, they should considering the money, but methods are methods, right?
 
I have a corner of the garage taken up by lawn care products.  I buy cheap and lots of it.  That means a 20lb bag of fertilizer, (I go with the value in big batches) does a couple of football fields worth of fertilizing.  I only have that small patch of grass so a nice bag of fertilizer or jug of weed killer/bug juice concentrate will last more than a couple of seasons.  That bag of limestone powder is holding up pretty well.  So I have enough Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, Rye and whatever comes in grass mixes guaranteed to work for my region on the shelf.  That means on the weekend I can just toss out a couple handfulls of something on the lawn and watch it work. 
paganwonder7 years ago
Sounds to me that the Canadian Government is trying to protect citizens from a product that doesn't do what it advertises it does.   What kind of lunacy is this- the government protecting it's citizens rather than business?   Sheer madness- it will never catch on in the US.
AngryRedhead (author)  paganwonder7 years ago
The city of Austin is encouraging people to avoid weed-n-feed which is at least something.  I don't know if they have the authority to ban the sale of these products, but if cities can ban the sale of alcohol, I figure they can ban this stuff.
 
I noticed that Texas? is also placing/placed a ban on non-asphalt pavement sealant due to problems with run-off.  (I could be mistaken about this- perhaps it was a lobby that had started.)

In any case it's good to see folks starting to demand products demonstrate best practice- if it could only spread to healthcare and we could move beyond the snake oil we're now sold.